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Made in New Zealand – 6 activities you must try!

by Bobbi Lee Hitchon, USA


Late one night in June of 1987, AJ Hackett snuck to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but a night in one of the world’s tallest icons wasn’t enough for this New Zealand born dare-devil.

The next morning, in a very public and illegal display, Hackett jumped off the tower, demonstrating to the world what we now know to be one of its most exhilarating activities, bungy jumping.

Influenced by the naghol or “land diving” ritual performed on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu and the wild antics of “The Dangerous Sports Club” at Oxford University in England, Hackett and fellow Kiwi Henry van Asch had been testing bungy chords in their home country a few years prior.

Not long after premiering this activity to the world in Paris, they opened the world’s first commercial bungy operation at the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in Novemeber of 1988. Today, the bungy site is still open, attracting risk-takers from around the world.

But bungy jumping isn’t the only Kiwi-created way to get your kicks. In fact, it’s almost a tradition here to come up with new and interesting means of stimulation. These six made-in-New Zealand activities are a must on any visit to the country.

Jet Boat

AJ Hackett may be New Zealand’s most famous extreme-sports mastermind, but one Kiwi was developing another type of thrill ride long before the bungy king was even born. Growing up on the South Island, William Hamilton dreamed of coming up with something to quickly navigate the island’s waterways.

While the engineer does not take credit for jet propulsion, he did invent the first modern jet boat in 1953. In 1970 commercial jet boating began operating on the Shotover River in Queenstown, allowing visitors to take in the island’s dramatic scenery at high speeds. Today jet boating is available all over New Zealand, including Huka Falls in Taupo and Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, as well as in several locations around the world.


By far, one of New Zealand’s wackiest concepts, the ZORB globe was invented and developed in Rotorua on the North Island in 1995.

So what exactly is ZORBing?

Step one, enter a large, padded plastic ball or “ZORB”. Step two, have someone on the outside give it a good push down a hill, preferably a somewhat steep one with a few bumps. Step three, giggle and scream like a little girl while rolling to the bottom.

In Rotorua, people can try dry and wet ZORB rides on an array of tracks.

Black Water Rafting

While white water rafting is available in tumultuous water ways around the world, including New Zealand, Kiwis in the North Island’s Waitomo area decided to try out the sport in the dark.

Since 1987, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. has taken visitors on a wild tube ride through the North Island’s Ruakuri Cave. Two tour options allow people to see New Zealand’s underworld as extreme as they’d like.

The five-hour Black Abyss Tour will have participants climbing, abseiling, zip lining and tubing the cave system. The three-hour Black Labyrinth Tour includes the same adventure tubing down waterfalls, over rapids and on calm waters with some climbing. Both tours allow visitors to check out the cave’s ancient limestone walls and unique glow worms.

And don’t worry, the tour will not have people freezing and scared as they float in pitch dark. The company provides wet suits and head lamps.


Another Rotorua development,  in 1985, Kiwis took the Olympic winter sport of luging to concrete. Instead of shooting down a half-pipe ice track in a toboggan, they created a small plastic cart on wheels, completely maneuvered by metal handle bars, to speed down three tracks built on Mt Ngongotaha.

This activity is available at Skyline locations in Rotorua and Queenstown. The company also offers gondola rides and other activities at both these locations.

The Shweeb

The inventor of this NZ activity is actually Australian, but we won’t hold that against him. Geoffrey Barnett grew up biking, instead of driving, around the suburbs of Melbourne. After graduating, he headed to Japan where he taught English and learned what bumper-to-bumper traffic meant in Tokyo. After seeing it, he envisioned an elevated cycling monorail system that would have users laughing at the suckers stuck in traffic below as they speed by.

After some time abroad he headed back to Oz, where he spent years developing what we now know as the Shweeb. But when it came time to show premiere his invention to the world, he went to Rotorua. The geothermal city remains the only place in the world where people can try out this pedal-powered monorail system.

Available at Agroventures, visitors enter their own clear, plastic pod, sit on a reclined chair and pedal around one of two 200-meter tracks. Race a friend or just take in New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery on the country’s one-of-a-kind Shweeb.

Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Freelance writer and photographer
[email protected]
Creator of Heels and Wheels


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Backpacking NZ | Backpackers News

Backpacking NZ | Backpackers News